Both of the Turkish Cypriot representatives - Seyhan Fell and Burhan Torgut – were selected for the starting 15 in the Paphos, South Cyprus stadium, with Fell on the wing at No 14 and Burhan in the key scrum half No 9 position for his last outing for the ‘‘Moufflons” before retiring from International rugby - at the tender age of 26 - to concentrate on coaching in Scotland.
A surprise in the warm-up came with news that Seyhan Fell was asked by the coaching team to perform place-kicking duties during the match.
The game got underway with Cyprus kicking off. A high kick, travelling just over the 10-metre line, gave Cyprus forwards the early opportunity to put their Croatia visitors under pressure and “hands in the ruck” saw Fell stepping forward to attempt his first International kick from a distance of some 40-plus metres, after just 15 seconds of play. With people still arriving to take their seats, the ball sailed high over the crossbar with the home team registering its first three points.
The game then settled down with the visitors playing running rugby, throwing the ball across the park without really causing the Moufflons defence any serious problems. A penalty awarded for not releasing a tackled player allowed Croatia to level after about 15 minutes and the game continued in this vein until the half-hour mark. Another long-range penalty was converted by Fell, together with two tries, one a glorious interception wide out to the right which allowed Fell to run from nearly half-way to register his second international try. The Moufflons other try of the half was scored by Sam Burns and again converted by Fell.
Half-time saw Moufflons well in front at 20 – 3, but there was always the threat that the visitors would score tries as the match wore on so it was vital that South Cyprus team defended well but also added to the points tally in the second half.
The second half played out with the much heavier and stronger Croatian team putting the home side under pressure. South Cyprus team was definitely the more mobile but eventually the tries came for the visitors. First one, then two, three – here Moufflons responded with another converted try of their own - and finally a bonus point fourth for the visitors.
A heart-breaking result for the home side which followed a similar pattern to that of the Andorran game when the Cypriots lost by one point in the fading minutes.
There is always next season, however, and The Moufflons look certain to bounce back.
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